Monday, April 14, 2014

The Ukraine crisis – how does it affect us in Israel?

We are waiting for the events in Ukraine to unfold. Either the Ukrainian special forces will indeed try to tackle Putin’s extra-terrestrials ( i.e. Russian special forces  with no insignia)  or they will do nothing. If the Ukrainians go ahead they will give Putin a pretext to invade Ukraine. If they do nothing they will have ensured the partition of Ukraine in the future.  Quite a difficult decision.  

But how does it affect us? To quote Neville Chamberlain ‘ How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing

The situation in Ukraine is bad and it will probably get worse.  But what it means for Israel is: What is happening this very minute in Ukraine is the consequence of the incompetent foreign policies of the Obama administration.  Alarm bells should be ringing in Jerusalem regarding Iran, despite the preparations for the Seder tonight. 

As for tense situations, here is one from 100 years ago:

The discussion had reached its inconclusive end, and the Cabinet was about to separate, when the quiet grave tones of Sir Edward Grey's voice were heard reading a document which had just been brought to him from the Foreign Office. It was Austrian note to Serbia. He had being reading or speaking for several minutes before I could disengage my mind from the tedious and bewildering debate which had just closed. We were all very tired, but gradually as the phrases and sentences followed one another impressions of a wholly different character began to form in my mind. This note was clearly an ultimatum; but it was an ultimatum such as had never been penned in modern times. As the reading proceeded it seemed absolutely impossible that any State in the world could accept it, or that any acceptance, however abject, would satisfy the aggressor. The parishes of Fermanagh and Tyrone faded back into the mists and squalls of Ireland, and a strange light began immediately, but by perceptible graduations, to fall and grow upon the map of Europe.

I always take the greatest interest in reading accounts of how the war came upon different people; where they were, and what they were doing, when the first impression broke on their mind, and they first began to feel this overwhelming event laying its fingers on their lives. I never tire of the smallest detail, and I believe that so long as they are true and unstudied they will have a definite value and an enduring interest for posterity...

The above quote is from Winston S. Churchill "The World Crisis", Volume I, pages 204, 205, Charles Schribner's Sons, New York 1923, renewed in 1951.

Introducing Ofek 10, the just-launched Israeli satellite, designed to keep tabs on Iran

·         BY RUTH EGLASH  April 10 at 4:21 pm
JERUSALEM – Israel’s capacity to keep tabs on Iran was boosted Wednesday night after the successful launch into space of its 10th and most advanced satellite to date.
The satellite, which Israelis call Ofek 10 (Ofek meaning horizon in Hebrew), entered into orbit around the Earth in the early hours of Thursday morning and immediately started transmitting signals back, according to information shared by Israel’s Ministry of Defense and Israel Aerospace Industries.

A video of the launch as well as animation of the satellite in orbit can be seen below:

The Ofek 10 will be used for military purposes, Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has said, including monitoring Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons development and that country’s involvement in supporting militant groups in neighboring Arab countries.

Following the launch, Ya'alon said the venture was "further testimony to Israel's impressive ability to develop and lead at the forefront of technology.”

He added that Ofek 10 would improve Israel's “intelligence capabilities and allow the defense establishment to better deal with threats both close and far, all hours of the day and in all weather conditions. We continue to increase the vast qualitative and technological advantage over our neighbors."

Just last month during a visit to Washington, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated to both President Obama and to U.S. Jewish leaders his warnings about Iran’s desire to obtain nuclear weapons and what it would mean if they were successful. “Letting the worst terrorist regime on the planet get atomic bombs would endanger everyone, and it certainly would endanger Israel since Iran openly calls for our destruction,” Netanyahu told U.S. Jews gathered at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual conference.

This is the seventh Israeli satellite in orbit — Israel launched its previous incarnation, Ofek 9, in June 2010. The new Ofek is an remote-sensing observation satellite that employs synthetic aperture radar technology with advanced high-resolution imagery, capable of operating day or night and in all weather conditions.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Time to vomit --- Kerry focuses blame for impasse in talks on Israel

On Sept 2, 1939, when some MPs heard Chamberlain's reaction to Hitler's attack on Poland (the previous day), they vomited. This is exactly how I felt when I heard Kerry’s remarks 

But perhaps this need further elaboration since I got a talkback asking what has 1939 got to do with the Palestinians. .

When a politician’s behavior is so disgraceful there are no words to describe it. One can only throw up in disgust. 

Secretary of state highlights both sides’ ‘unhelpful moves’ but indicates collapse began with failure to release prisoners
At the same time, he expressed hope that the two sides would continue to negotiate, but also warned that there was a “limit” to how much effort the US government could invest in the process if the two parties weren’t serious about negotiating a pact.
“Both sides wound out in a position of unhelpful moves,” Kerry said at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, delineating what he said led to the current impasse.
“The prisoners were not released by Israel on the day they were supposed to be released and then another day passed and another day, and then 700 units were approved in Jerusalem and then poof — that was sort of the moment,” Kerry said.
The secretary of state was referring to the planned fourth release of Palestinian security prisoners, which was originally slated for March 29. Israel did not proceed with the release on time, with Jerusalem saying that it was delayed because the Palestinian Authority had demanded that Israeli Arabs be among those freed and was unwilling to commit to extend peace talks beyond their April 29 deadline.
On April 1, the Israel Lands Authority reissued a call for tenders for 708 homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, which is located beyond the 1967 lines and was annexed by Israel.
Later that same day, PA President Mahmoud Abbas signed 15 letters of accession to multilateral treaties and conventions, in what Israel said was a clear breach of Ramallah’s commitment not to take unilateral steps to advance their statehood bid so long as the talks were ongoing.
“The treaties were unhelpful, and we made that crystal clear to the Palestinians,” Kerry said at the Senate hearing.
He also said that Palestinians recognition of Israel as a Jewish state should be part of a final peace agreement, but added that the step would likely only be achieved at the very end of the process and not at the outset. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has in recent months elevated the demand for such Palestinian recognition to that of a core issue.
Despite his evident frustration, Kerry said it was still possible for the two sides to find a way to extend the talks and return to “substantive discussion.”
Senator John McCain told Kerry that “talks, even though you might drag them out for a bit, are finished,” but the secretary of state replied by saying that the peace process should not be declared dead as long as the two sides declare their willingness to continue negotiating.
At the same time, Kerry said, “there are limits to the amount of time the president and myself can put into this, considering the other challenges around the world, especially if the parties can’t commit to being there in a serious way.”
Afterward, the State Department attempted to dispel the impression that Israel had been singled out for harsher criticism in Kerry’s comments.
“As he has been throughout this impasse, today Secretary Kerry was again crystal clear that both sides have taken unhelpful steps and at no point has he engaged in a blame game,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
“Today he even singled out by name Prime Minister Netanyahu for having made courageous decisions to bring the process this far. Now it is up to the parties and their leaders to determine whether we maintain a productive path,” she added.
Kerry was set to meet US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office later Tuesday to discuss the fate of the peace talks.
Senior officials have rejected the idea that Obama intends to pull the plug on the peace effort, and say he deeply appreciates his top diplomat’s efforts.
But equally, Obama may need to be convinced that Kerry’s intense focus on the initiative is merited given its apparently slim chance of success and deepening global crises crying out for US attention elsewhere.
“The issue now is whether the parties can demonstrate that they are willing to make the difficult decisions necessary to move the process forward,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
“The parties understand what the choices are and they understand that these are not decisions that the United States or any other country can make. The parties themselves have to make them.”
On Wednesday, Kerry will meet with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in Washington.

AFP contributed to this report.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Off topic. Bill O'Reilly: Many Americans are blatantly ignorant and lazy. Apathy in America is through the roof.

I am Bill O’Reilly. Thanks for watching us tonight. Why Americans are confused about President Obama?  That is the subject of this evening’s Talking Points.

Memo. New Poll from CBS News says 53% of American adults believe President Obama has strong qualities of leadership . 45% say he does not. This is actually up three points from November’s poll.  How can that be possible? With all the problems in Obamacare and dire situation overseas? Once again  today the President got nowhere with our European allies who are reluctant to punish Putin for ceasing Crimea.  Nevertheless Obama put a happy face on it:

[Obama] “ I want to commend the EU for the important steps taken already to make sure Russia feels the cost of its behavior in Ukraine. By implement visa bans,  freezing assets and designating individuals for sanctions as well as cancelling a number of engagements with Russia”

Uggh.. Talking Points wants to be clear. There is no reputable foreign affairs expert who says America and Europe are being tough on Putin.  No one with any credibility is saying that. So why do most American adults, according to CBS, think the president’s leadership is strong? The answer is twofold. First the poll is taken among adults, not registered voters, not likely voters. Just folks. And the harsh truth is that many of us are blatantly ignorant and lazy. We simply will not pay attention to the world around us. We get information from other people who may be as dumb as we are.  I am sorry to be so blunt , but that is the truth. Apathy in America is through the roof. Second. Ideologues, as Arianna  Huffington  admitted last night,  will never they will never turn against their guy.  This is the same on the left and or the right. So President Obama can count on core support from very liberal people who put theory over reality . After more than five years in office the facts are these: The American economy still in troubled, the affordable healthcare law a mess, poverty on the rise, income for working Americans  falling. And overseas America has lost credibility almost everywhere. In the face of those facts 53% of Americans still believe  that Barack Obama is displaying strong leadership? Almost unbelievable!  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ze'ev Maghen: Shi'ite Eschatology and the Iranian Nuclear Crisis

I just came across this paper which disagrees with Bernard Lewis, Raphael Israeli, Mathias Kuntzel, Reza Kahlili  and others on the messianic,  apocalyptic character of the Iranian Twelvers.  One more reason why a conference of scholars of Islam on Iran would be a good idea.

But it seems that MAD is very much dead nevertheless: 

Thus, though a willingness to risk the  deaths of millions of members of the Iranian population as a result of a nuclear counterattack cannot (so this study will argue) be derived from Shi'ite eschatology, it  could still conceivably be sought in Shi'te martyrology

Ze'ev Maghen: Shi'ite Eschatology and the Iranian Nuclear Crisis

The Scribd doc seems to have distorted the pdf so you can use the link directly:

Note: you can press the  scribd  full screen button at the bottom right corner to read more easily  

Prof. Ze’ev Maghen

Ph.D., Columbia University
M.A., Columbia University
B.A., University of Pennsylvania
Ze’ev Maghen is Professor of Persian Language and Islamic History and former chairman of the Department of Middle East Studies at Bar-Ilan University. He received his B.A. at the University of Pennsylvania and his M.A. and Ph.D. at Columbia University. Maghen’s areas of expertise include Revolutionary Iran, Islamic fundamentalism, Islamic law, and Jewish-Muslim relations. He has published two books and numerous articles on these subjects, and is currently working on a comprehensive monograph entitled The Mind of the Ayatollahs: Iran, Shi‘ism, and the World.
Maghen speaks fluent Arabic, Persian, Russian, English and Hebrew, and has lectured widely in the United States, Europe, Turkey, Russia, the Ukraine, Uzbekistan, India, Panama, Guatemala, and Israel. He served in the Tank Corps of the Israel Defense Forces until his discharge from the reserves in 2005.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Since when does Ya'alon have to apologize for saying that 2 + 2 = 4?

Two years ago I wrote:

I can only conclude that the American press is just incapable of handling the truth about the Iranian threat and chooses to ignore it. The frankness displayed by the Ya’alon interview in Ha’aretz is just too much for the uninformed and sleepwalking US public to handle.

Now we see that the Obama administration is even less capable of handling the truth. Both the Obama administration and the American press live in a fantasy world they take for reality. 

Ari Shavit: But the Iranians are rational, and the use of nuclear weapons is an irrational act. Like the Soviets, they will never do that.

Moshe  Ya’alon:  “A Western individual observing the fantastic ambitions of the Iranian leadership scoffs: ‘What do they think, that they will Islamize us?’ The surprising answer is: Yes, they think they will Islamize us: The ambition of the present regime in Tehran is for the Western world to become Muslim at the end of a lengthy process. Accordingly, we have to understand that their rationality is completely different from our rationality. Their concepts are different and their considerations are different. They are completely unlike the former Soviet Union. They are not even like Pakistan or North Korea. If Iran enjoys a nuclear umbrella and the feeling of strength of a nuclear power, there is no knowing how it will behave. It will be impossible to accommodate a nuclear Iran and it will be impossible to attain stability. The consequences of a nuclear Iran will be catastrophic.”

Ya'alon apologizes to US for inflammatory comments

LAST UPDATED: 03/20/2014 00:28

Comments not intended to express opposition, criticism or offense to US, says Ya'alon to Hagel following wave of backlash from Washington.

Moshe Ya'alon John Kerry
US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon Photo: REUTERS
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon found himself apologizing for the second time in recent weeks for harsh comments made about the US government.
In a phone conversation with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Wednesday night, Ya'alon said that his comments "were not intended to express opposition, criticism or offense to the United States," adding that maintaining strong ties with the United States is Israel's utmost priority.
Ya'alon expressed his appreciation for the close relationship Israel shares with the United States, and emphasized his full commitment to cooperation between the two nations.
Hagel thanked Ya'alon for his clarification, acknowledging that some of the comments may have been taken out of context.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu already began his efforts at damage control earlier in the day.
Hours after senior US officials slammed Ya’alon for his latest criticism of American policy, Netanyahu told the Knesset on Wednesday the US remained Israel’s greatest ally.
“We also appreciate the very high security and intelligence cooperation, including during the incident with the Iranian arms ship [the Klos C, which the Israel Navy seized on March 5],” Netanyahu said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry phoned Netanyahu on Wednesday to protest Ya’alon’s comments, stopping short of calling for his resignation, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
“Clearly his comments were not constructive,” Psaki told reporters at her daily briefing. “It is certainly confusing to us.”
Psaki added that Kerry does not believe Ya’alon’s comments “reflect the view of the government of Israel.”
Ya’alon was quoted by Haaretz as saying at a Tel Aviv University event on Monday that America’s aid to Israel needed to be “seen in proportion,” and that it was not a one-way street.
“It isn’t a favor America is doing, it’s in their interest,” he said. “They get quality intelligence and technology.
We invented [the] Iron Dome [anti-rocket system]. The wings of the F-35 stealth fighter – we invented. We invented the Arrow [anti-ballistic missile system].”
Ya’alon’s comments and other remarks he made critical of US foreign policy triggered withering criticism from a senior US official.
“We were shocked by Moshe Ya’alon’s comments, which seriously call into question his commitment to Israel’s relationship with the United States,” a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday night. “Moreover, this is part of a disturbing pattern in which the defense minister disparages the US administration, and insults its most senior officials.”
Ya’alon, in his speech at Tel Aviv University, said that in light of the US’s policies in the Middle East, with China and with Russia, it has developed an image in the world of “feebleness.”
“The moderate Sunni camp in the area expected the United States to support it, and to be firm, like Russia’s support for the Shi’ite axis,” Ya’alon said. “I heard voices of disappointment in the region. I was in Singapore and heard disappointment about China getting stronger and the US getting weaker. Look what’s happening in Ukraine, where the United States is demonstrating weakness, unfortunately.”
Ya’alon criticized the US for showing weakness globally.
“If you sit and wait at home, the terrorism will come again,” he said. “Even if you hunker down, it will come.
This is a war of civilizations. If your image is feebleness, it doesn’t pay in the world. Nobody will replace the United States as global policeman. I hope the United States comes to its senses. If it doesn’t, it will challenge the world order, and the United States is the one that will suffer.”
On Iran, Ya’alon said that “comfortable Westerners prefer to put off confrontation. If possible to next year, or the next president. But in the end it will blow up.” The US was being out-negotiated by Iran, and that “on this matter we have to behave as though we have nobody to look out for us, but ourselves,” he said.
The US official told the Post that “given the unprecedented commitment that this administration has made to Israel’s security, we are mystified why the defense minister seems intent on undermining the relationship.”
The comments came two weeks after Ya’alon was criticized for saying in a private conversation that Kerry’s diplomatic efforts stemmed from an “incomprehensible obsession” and “a messianic feeling.” The State Department demanded an apology for those comments, which Ya’alon delivered at the time, at Netanyahu’s insistence.
Sources in Ya’alon’s office said that he discussed the latest incident with the prime minister on Wednesday, and that the defense minister would clarify his comments to the Americans.
Meanwhile, Ynet quoted sources close to Ya’alon as saying that some in the Obama administration were “trying to hurt” the defense minister’s “legitimacy and his great popularity.”
One source said that “the Americans are calling him a ‘hard nut to crack’ and an ‘extremist,’ but in actuality he is standing firm facing what he identifies as a danger to the state and the security of its citizens.” Staff contributed to this report. 

Update April 12, 2014 : We often are unaware were the expressions we use come from.  I am reading Winston Churchill’s The Word Crisis and was surprise to read this:

Lord Fisher did not like the idea of a naval programme . On February 13, 1912, he wrote:

We are asses now for not building a 16 – inch gun as Sir E. Wilmot told you in the letter I sent you – but you can’t help yourself any more than you can help deliberately laying down ships for the Line of Battle that go less than 30 knots – there are certain things that even God Almighty can’t help! (let alone you). He for instance can’t help two added two being four!...